Falling for Webflow

I fell in love with web publishing because of the ability it gave me to share my thoughts freely online. It's why I started my first blog.

That being said, I’m not a “coder” so I’ve always been limited in my ability to build exactly what I wanted to build on the web.

I can open up most websites, inspect the code, and sort out what makes the website work, but I am not able to write the code semantically.

It’s just not how my brain works.

For most people, not knowing how to code means working inside of a framework or theme. It means settling for Wix or SquareSpace as opposed to working with HTML, CSS and Javascript directly.

For the adventurous and more technically savvy, maybe it means learning WordPress and figuring out how to configure plugins, customize themes, and build out websites using various online tools.

That’s the route I took when I started building websites.

For the last 6 years, WordPress has served as my online workhorse and main source of revenue. I help organize a local meetup, I've spoken at WordCamps (WordPress conferences), and I still love almost everything about the platform.

But the world wide web is changing fast and ever since I started building websites, I've been on the lookout for a tool that lets me build the things I see in my head without having to get a masters level education in front end web development.

Then I found Webflow.

In June of 2017 I started watching Nelson’s livestreams.

I would sit in awe as he deconstructed world class websites, (iPhone X landing page, Stranger Things, and more) rebuilding them from the ground up in about an hour using this tool I had never heard of called Webflow.

I started following the company, reading their blog, and watching their instructional video content. Then one day I created an account and started playing with the tool myself.

I was immediately amazed by its potential and equally overwhelmed by what seemed like endless complexity. I didn't know it at the time, but I had just stumbled into the thing I had been looking for since the day I discovered what web publishing even was.

Sidenote: If you are reading this as a novice web designer, please understand Webflow is not necessarily the user friendly drag-and-drop editor you might be looking for. In other words, Webflow is not for the feint of heart.

What you'll find in Webflow is an enterprise grade visual development tool which is likely going to change the face of the internet.

Learning how to use Webflow has forced me to become more structural in my information architecture and overall approach to the mechanics of building websites, something I am really excited about. It has me thinking more like a programmer/engineer in addition to a designer. It’s forcing me to become more technically proficient with all things web without having to know how to write the code that pulls it all together.

To me, this flexibility and power makes Webflow so much more than any of the other web development tools available for non-developers. Everything else on the market feels like a warm up to what Webflow is now, let alone what they have in mind for their product over the next few years.

If I had to describe it to a friend—which I guess I'm doing in this post— I would call it a robust visual development tool for creative minds who already understand the fundamentals of how the web works. This means it gives technically savvy designers like me superpowers on the web.

Powers that WordPress is hardly going to be able to keep up with or match anytime soon. Especially as it relates to visual design.

To be honest, when I go back and work on WordPress sites, I feel like I did back when I had a blackberry and all my friends were playing with their new iPhones. Except this time the roles are reversed and I have the shiny new toy. And while I admit that there are many applications for which I will still recommend WordPress (specifically membership driven sites and complex ecommerce) most of my future marketing sites, business websites, and even brand first ecommerce sites will be built using Webflow. Furthermore, I have a feeling that Webflow will catch up quickly as it relates to some of the things that WordPress does better for now.

I have to imagine many people who know how to write code will start moving to Webflow once they understand how much it simplifies the more complex interactive and visual components of CSS like Flexbox or Grid based layouts.

Imagine an interface kind of like Photoshop, but for building websites. In a way Dreamweaver could have only dreamed of.

I guess it’s more like Photoshop meets After Effects for the web. Mostly because it allows you to create, style, and then animate, anything, anywhere on the viewport. You can create pixel perfect scroll based animations on an intuitive timeline, manipulate elements based on hover and click states, and so much more.

All without writing a single line of code.

If that’s not enough, you can also export the code, send data directly through an API, connect your content through zapier, or import and export directly by CSV.

Blend that with some forward thinking views from the CEO about the future of the open web and it’s not crazy to say that Webflow might just be the most exciting product I’ve ever seen as it relates to translating the world of quality design to a functional web environment.

"...it allows creatives to interface with the building blocks of the web in a way that is native to their learning process."

To put it plainly, it’s a game changer for the world of web design precisely because it allows creatives to interface with the building blocks of the web in a way that is native to their learning process. And while I was initially intimidated by the complexity of the product, It's by far the closest thing to what I’ve been looking for over the last few years.

So after a few frustrating sessions, with more than one curse laiden start-from-scratch, I finally worked my way into something I was happy to publish as “My First Webflow Website”. It's less of a website, and more of a single page visual experiment. But even in its rough, unfinished state, the site is lightyears ahead of anything I’ve created visually with WordPress up to this point.

Since then I’ve built the following sites in Webflow and I am pretty damn proud of all of them.

You'll notice that all of the sites are unique visually, and none of them feel like the kind of websites you typically run into on the web. Let alone WordPress. They feel custom. They are brand driven and custom tailored to the user experience. Something that is starting to matter more and more in the world of online sales.

In my mind, all of this means a couple things for the future of my career as a web professional.

  1. It means I can start delivering beautifully designed fully custom websites for which I can charge considerably more than I was able to before without having to hire some large complicated development team to do the heavy lifting.
  2. It gives me a whole new layer of potential as it relates to the type of web experiences I will be able to build over the next few years as Webflow continues to release new features and I learn more about the full power of the platform.

Actually, this whole post was just a long way for me to bring you up to speed on some of the websites we’ve launched recently, and to let you know that there will be many more as we move forward.

Much like I did with WordPress, I’ll soon start creating instructional content about Webflow and I plan on shifting the focus of our local WordPress MeetUp to help people familiarize themselves with the power of the Webflow platform.

Over time we’ll connect the beautiful front ends I’m building to the powerful publishing and curation tools we’ve been been building over the last couple years. Together they'll make up the foundation for a distributed online publishing platform that we think will reshape the face of the internet as we know it.

A vision I will start to paint more clearly for all of you over the next few posts.

Until then...